Welcome to Parkinson’s Disease

Finch_Silhouette.JPGSeveral years ago, I attended a women’s conference and one of the speakers spoke on how sometimes we make plans for our life, only to have them over turned by the curves and bumps on the road we are traveling  – or planned to travel. Kind of like planning to take a trip to Holland and unexpectantly ending up in Italy.

This is my version of that story…

Welcome to Parkinson’s Disease

Life is much like planning for a fabulous trip. A once-in-a-lifetime-around-the-world excursion.

Life and its expectations. You plan for them – college, marriage, babies, moving, retirement. It’s all can be like planning for that fabulous get away to somewhere like say… Italy.

You buy a bunch of guidebooks. You do your Google research for the best places to stay, sights for you to see, airfare specials for you to book, and more. You make your wonderful plans. You will go to the coliseum. See Micheangelo’s David. RIde the gondolas in Venice. And perhaps you will educate yourself by learning some handy and witty phrases in Italian. Meanwhile, feeling unusually tired lately, you hope the trip will rejuvenate you and you will have energy to see and do it all.

You cannot wait  for all the planning to come together as you excitedly count the days until your departure. All the weeks, months, and maybe even years of anticipation and hours of preparation lead up to that moment. The day you leave. Your bags are packed with everything you will need and it’s a no brainer that everything is going to be perfect as you spend the next three months abroad.

After all, you planned for this.

Tripping as you step onto the plane, you then find your seat and settle in, all the while hoping that no one saw you almost fall.  Now shaking (something you’ve noticed you do even when you’re not nervous), you close your eyes but find it difficult to sleep, chalking it up excitement. Several hours later, the plane lands and you can hardly wait to breathe in the wonderful, warm air of Italy. The flight attendant comes on over the loud speaker and tells you that you may now take off your seat belt and in a warm and friendly voice adds, “Welcome to Parkinson’s disease!”

“Parkinson’s disease?!” you say. “What do you mean, Parkinson’s disease? I signed up for a vacation in Italy. I planned for a vacation in Italy. I’ve spent the last ten years thinking about my vacation in Italy! Dang-nabbit!!! I’M SUPPPOSED TO BE VACATIONING IN ITALY!!!”

Now, the important thing to remember is that you haven’t been taken to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and the like. You have just been re-directed to a different place in life.

So, now you must go out and buy new guidebooks on this new season in life called Parkinson’s disease. And, you must learn a whole new language. Words like basal ganglia and dopamine and dystonia and so on. So much more. And you will be meeting a whole new group of people that you never would have met if you had gone to Italy. Other people who have been on a journey with Parkinson’s. Patients. Caregivers. Movement disorder specialists, to name a few.

This is not what you had envisioned. Not what you had dreamed of or imagined. It’s a different place. A place where disease is present. A place where now all  other things in your life have been, could or will be affected. It may now be a place where your marriage changes. Retirement may come sooner. Your  kids may have a hard time understanding. This life you are now living with Parkinson’s disease may have thrown you for a loop. It certainly isn’t what you had hoped for. This life you are now living is slower paced than that trip you had planned to Italy and it is certainly filled with many unknowns, but after you have caught your breath and looked around, you begin to notice that Parkinson’s has something, in a round about way,  something to offer…

You notice that Parkinson’s disease affords the opportunities to see things differently. It offers  the ability to deepen your level of compassion and understanding. Parkinson’s disease allows you to meet many new and different people you would never have met if you had gone to Italy. It gives rise to a deeper faith, thereby strengthening your relationship with your Creator.

And yet, everyone you know is busy coming to and from Italy – that place that you had always dreamed of going to and maybe even spending the rest of your life there. They all seem to be bragging about the wonderful life they’re living there, or at least the wonderful time they’re having as they visit. And for the rest of your life you will think to yourself, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that loss – that dream – may never, ever go away because that loss is a very, very significant loss. But, if you spend the rest of your life (or even a part of it), mourning the fact that life isn’t exactly the way you had planned – that you didn’t get to go to Italy and you ended up on a journey with Parkinson’s disease instead – than you may never be free to enjoy the very special blessings that this life has to offer. So…

Welcome to Parkinson’s disease. 

It’s not what I had planned either but here I am. I would much rather have been able to stay on course and made my way to Italy and writing you from atop the Eiffel Tower, but alas, my Pilot had other plans. So – having come here before you or perhaps feeling a bit better than you are feeling today on your journey, I am here to walk with you, beside you, and together under that guide of our trustworthy Pilot, we will forge through this unplanned and unimagined journey and when we get to the end of this road, may it be said of us… “Well done, good and faithful travelers.”

(That’s the new plan, anyhow!)

Get It Out

imageLast summer, the findings of a study conducted by the University of Houston were released regarding the well being of female breast cancer survivors, specifically Chinese women. This ethnic group was chosen primarily because of the stigma cancer holds within the Chinese community.

“Unlike the Caucasian population, many Chinese have less knowledge of breast cancer and they feel that the cancer is very threatening, and they associate it with immediate death,” said Qian Lu, assistant professor and director of the Culture and Health Research Center at the University of Houston.

The study, which was published in Health Psychology, a scholarly journal, was based upon writing. Each of the 19 participants in the study (based in the Los Angeles area) were given health assessment questionnaires before the study began, followed by three sets of instructions.
In week one, patients wrote about their deepest thoughts/fears/emotions in regards to their experience with breast cancer.

Week two, they wrote about coping mechanisms they used to relieve stress brought on by the disease, and in week three they were to write about their positive thoughts and feelings. The patients who put in 20 to 30 minutes each day regularly (3-4 days per week) for the three week period saw positive change in relationship to their immune system.

The report stated that the purpose of the writing exercise was “to facilitate emotional disclosure, effective coping and finding benefit, which would work together to bring stressors and personal goals into awareness and regulate thoughts and emotions relevant to the cancer experience.” It also went on to say that the “release offered by writing had a direct impact on the body’s capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.”

So – what’s this have to do with Parkinson’s disease?

I don’t think Chinese women have an edge when it comes to writing about their illness, disease, sickness, heartache, joy and/or thanks-givings. No – I believe that writing is good for anyone’s mind,  soul,  heart, and  spirit. You can scratch down (or type out) your thoughts and feelings and say whatever you choose in regards to how you’re feeling. It’s a release of pent up frustrations, anger, fear, confused thoughts, sorrow, grief – the list could go on and on. It’s a release when no one else will listen or when no one may understand. It’s called journaling. It’s therapy in its least expensive form (besides the one on one sharing of conversation between two good friends).

Journaling (or as the study referred to – writing) will not cure cancer. It will not cure Parkinson’s. But it will allow for a place to dump the stress and walk away, perhaps leading to a feeling of life being a bit lighter. When you’re body isn’t focused on fear, grief, sorrow and the like, it has a greater capacity to “withstand stress and fight off infection and disease,” as Lu stated above. Journaling offers the opportunity to get out your fears without feeling foolish. To release the grief over feeling you’ve lost something valuable. To be thankful for what you do have.

And that last sentence is important…

If you spend your time journaling everything negative about your life with PD, your life with PD will be anything but positive. There are still good and beautiful things to behold in the midst of this journey. So, if you are thinking about journaling your life with Parkinson’s disease, either as a patient or a care giver – release the fears, the unshed tears, the grief and the sorrow onto paper but make sure you include and end with the positive. Always end with something positive.

It’s there. I promise.

Lessons from A Fall

Copyright 2012 by Sherri Woodbridge
Copyright 2012 by Sherri Woodbridge



chances of no rain.

no breeze.

just hot.

but a beautiful day.


so i decided to wash down the house.

rid the structure of black widows that seemed to be crawling into every crack.

every crevice.

every hole.

every opening.



did i mention i hate underwire bras?


that’s important to know.

i only have one.

because it’s still decent

too decent to not feel guilty of discarding.

and today, i was wearing just that one.

that’s important to know.


i sprayed the sides of the structure.

the windows.

the overhangs.


i killed one.




five black widows as big as my pinky.


i felt like the exterminator in Aracnophobia

and watched them sizzle against the wood

in the 105 degree sun

while spraying them with poison.


it was spine chilling.

but i did it.


and then it was time to move hose,

from the back.

to the front.


as i stood up

after bending over to unhook the hose

from the faucet,

it happened.


i fell.

i took three steps forward –

and i fell.


and i was reminded of the little teapot

who was short and stout

who was tipped out and poured out

and i felt just like her –

short and stout,

tipped and toppled over

and poured out all over the cement driveway.


and the broom stick i was holding,

instead of bracing me and giving me support,

toppled with me

and jabbed into my left breast

and the only thing one can think of

when confronted in such a situation is

“did anyone see me?”


with pride intact,

i slowly stood

surprising myself

with the lack of tears

and carried on

with the task at hand.


and as i began to spray again

i rubbed the sore spot,

quite certain

i at least badly bruised,

if not cracked, the rib

in the spot aforementioned.


as i rubbed it,

i noticed the wire in my brazier

was badly bent

where the broomstick handle had hit.


i changed from my pest control uniform

into my S.W.A.T. team member uniform,

for at that moment i felt like one

who had been shot

and saved by the bullet proof vest –

(in my case the brazier)

i had been wearing.


instead of hating that underwire bra

i suddenly was oh so thankful for it –

after all, it saved my life

(at least my breast).


so how does this have anything to do with Parkinson’s disease?


ladies, it may be safer to wear underwire bras.

at least if your carrying a broom stick

while hunting for black widows.


it’s been tested.

and they work.

i have the ‘v’ shaped wire to prove it.

A Rendition of Psalm 28


Photo by Sherri Woodbridge, 2015
 The Lord is our light, guiding us on this journey of life with… Parkinson’s disease. Or maybe for you, it’s cancer. MS. Crone’s disease. Depression. Or, maybe an addiction. A habit you want to break but can’t seem to do it.

The Lord is your light. What do you fear? The Lord is your stronghold in this life – what are you afraid of?

When thoughts of giving up or giving in – when they come upon you in an effort to eat away at your peace and confidence in Him and attack you from every side, seeking to break your spirit and render you useless – they will be thwarted and cast away.

Though an onslaught of useless, hopeless thoughts try to make a place for themselves in your life – thoughts like, “What if this happens?” or “What if that happens?” – even at moments like that… we can be confident. Content. Comforted.

We can approach Him with confidence. We can come with faith as small as a mustard seed, in search of the greatest desires of our hearts. We can approach Him without fear. We can seek Him for eternal blessings. We can look to Him for comfort in knowing that we will dwell with Him for all our days. In the days filled with moments of sorrow and moments filled with joy. And yes, even in the moments through our sicknesses and diseases – in all those moments consumed with fear – He can be found. We can find Him in His glory and majesty, waiting to extend His blessings of that comfort and safety. We can find him waiting to shelter us under his wings of strength. Willing – wanting – to be our refuge. To be the One we run to. The One we confide in. The One we cling to.

He will hold us up when we cannot sustain ourselves. He gives us strength when we are weak, compassion and understanding when we feel our bodies are failing, a spirit to fight when faced with fear, and joy for our journey. When we find this sweet spot – this place of rest – we are able and find delight in glorifying Him alone.

We cry out, “Hear me, God! Hear me! I am crying out to you! Have compassion on me. Show me kindness, gentleness, grace. Answer me. Please!” We run and chase after Him, desiring Him and Him alone. We fear He is hiding. That He really doesn’t care. Have we angered Him? Is He turning away from us as He turned from Christ in that dark moment upon the cross? Is this our cross to bear and must we bear it alone? Are these the fears that inhabit that utter darkness of despair?

Again, we cry out.

“Lord, God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit… do not play this game of hide and seek. Do not turn me away. Forgive me Lord, discipline me, rebuke me – but do not leave me!”

All is still.

All is quiet.

Did we dare to demand of Almighty God like that?!?

David did. God still loved and listened. Even called him FRIEND. David was honest to the core. And so we may be, too.

So quietly and softly we say it.

We feel it.

We express it.

After our cry, “Do not leave me!”, despairingly yet honestly we add, “Like so many before. …like I have You.”

We sit there. Emptied of the fight. Oddly, weak but renewed with His grace. Strengthened with His peace. Humbled with His faithfulness. Restored with His truth.

As it washes over us – a love that knows no conditions, a mercy that knows no bounds – we sit there and in a whisper we plead, “Teach me to be still Lord, to walk in faith and trust you in for every single step. May I not waver because of my fears.

“Do not let my them defeat me. They seek to destroy my peace, my state of mind, the truth that You still care. You’ve always cared.”

We take a deep breath. From somewhere within, we feel a renewed confidence in Him. A faith restored. Trust takes over, and fear falters.

“I am confident Lord, that I will see your goodness here on this earth, in the land of those who are living and so I will wait. In my confidence – in trust and with faith – I will wait

“Because of you, I will be strong and have hope. I will have an unquenchable courage that trusts in a loving God who fights for me. I will hope for the best, and anticipate the better. I will depend on you to dissipate the darkness in my days and to revive and renew me when the lot of despair threatens to depress me. And, as I wait, I will wait in wonder, watching for your hand to work in me – watching for You to work for me. “

Keeping What I’ve Got

  Dear Doctor, I’ve come here today

To get a new body, give my old one away

My feet – they stumble

They trip and I fall

And my brain’s becoming sluggish – but that’s not all.


My fingers won’t move the way I move them

My arms and legs they shake

You’d think I’d learn

There are no returns

On the parts of our bodies that break.


It’s not getting any easier

Other things are going wrong as I speak

Do you think you could do something, 

Somehow, anything

Your expertise is what I now seek.


I’ve put in for a new toe or two

The ones I have are not working well

They hurt, they bend

It’s becoming a trend

And hasn’t been too terribly swell.


Yet, doctor, you know – I’ve been thinking

About keeping at least my two eyes

They’ve helped me to see 

Incredible things

Like rainbows, the sunset  and  sunrise.


And you know – about my hands,

They’ve made so many things

And I’ll keep my voice

(I don’t have a choice),

My grandkids like when their Grammy sings.


And then, there are my legs,

They really have been good to me

They carried me here,

They’ve walked me to there

They’ve supported me constantly.


And let me not forget my heart

That has beat within every day 

I’ll keep that too

(it’s the least I can do),

For it’s guided me when along life’s way.



So I guess I’ve changed my mind

And I’ll keep all that God’s given me

I’ll enjoy what I’ve got,

‘Cuz I’ve got quite a lot,

I’m alive, been forgiven, and set free.












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